It’s been a year now since I left home with my boyfriend to embark on our long-term travels so I want to go back to the place where we started, Sri Lanka
The tiny island of Sri Lanka is south of India and packs a mighty punch for visitors with it’s rich culture, Buddhist ruins, thriving wildlife and breathtaking mountainous region, not to mention it’s glorious coastline of endless beaches. The country is one of the friendliest places we have travelled as well as easiest and cheapest. With two weeks, there is so much you can explore, from wildlife spotting in National Parks and surfing on one of the many beaches to hiking and exploring temples, you can do absolutely everything on your ‘traveller’ to do list in Sri Lanka.
- Visa – yes you need a visa. This can be purchased easily at the airport on arrival for $35 USD each.
- Take the bus. It’s SO cheap! Our longest journey was 5-6 hours and still only cost 220 LKR, that’s barely even $1 AUD!
- Take the train. Ok so I’m blowing the public transport horn but it really is great. The train through the mountainous hill country is stunning so use this option as much as you can.
- Accommodation. There isn’t an abundance of ‘hostel’ options in Sri Lanka. Opt for Guest Houses where possible but you can expect to pay around $25-$35 AUD per night on average.
- Food. Eat it, all of it. Try the traditional Sri Lankan breakfasts and each lots of Rotti and Kottu!
- Entrance Fees. Don’t be shocked when you are charged $40 for an entrance fee while the local in front of you is charged just $1…it’s just the way it is.
- People. Talk to them! Sri Lanka is one of the warmest and friendliest places we have visited so make the most of the welcome you will receive.
Here’s how we spent two amazing weeks in Sri Lanka in April 2015.
You’ll most likely fly into Colombo and various blogs will probably recommend staying at least one night there to take in some city sites, however, if you’ve got plans to head inland then I would suggest just getting that journey done and out of the way! At first we were determined to take public transport but found it difficult locating the right bus so we actually went with a local taxi driver. I had researched expected prices for the 3 hour journey and we arrived at an agreement of 6700 rupees (around 69GBP or $140).
Travelling that evening instead of staying in Colombo meant we could check in to our hostel, wake up refreshed the next day and spend a full 2 days in Kandy. While you’re here, take a stroll around the picturesque Bogambara Lake and observe ceremonies conducted by resident monks at the Temple Of The Tooth, the most popular of things to see in Kandy. Discover more scenic paradise at the Perandeniya Botanical Gardens or get close to the wildlife at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
The rest of our itinerary is headed south from Kandy, but North of the city is the spectacular Cultural Triangle where you’ll find the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress, 2000 year old ancient ruins of Anuradhapura and the Dambulla Caves. Find out about the best ways to explore the cultural triangle here.
ADAM’S PEAK, DALHOUSIE
If like us, you are wanting to tackle the 5,500 steps of Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) while in Sri Lanka then you’ll need to head to Dalhousie and find somewhere to stay. We travelled from Kandy to Hatton, a nearby town in the district of Nuwara Eliya, by minibus before getting public transport to Dalhousie where we’d stay for the next two nights at White House Guest House.
You’ll be climbing from 2am so be prepared, it can be chilly but make sure you have light, thin layers that can be removed once the suns up! We climbed during the pilgrimage season in April which we were advised against by many Google searches but what can you do…if you’re there in April then you’re there in April right! In the end we didn’t find it a problem until we reached the peak and had to make our way through a rather small platform area in order to take in the views, obscured by people’s heads.
Ella, Ella, hey hey! This place is not to be missed. The small backpacker hub lies on the southern edge of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country and it is beautiful. We stayed 3 night’s here and enjoyed a bit of luxury in Ella Okreech Cottages for around 10 GBP per person per night. While you’re here, the best things to do involve walking lazily along the railway tracks til you reach the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge, or if you have it in you after Adam’s Peak, take on ‘little’ Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock, both of which provide stunning views of the luscious green Hill Country.
There are also some great waterfalls, Ravana Ella Falls and Ella Gap. You’ll come by Ella Gap on the descent from Ella Rock, which is the perfect way to refresh and recoup after the hike! We hung around the waterfall just sitting on the rocks for a good 30 minutes relaxing in the calm of it all before deciding we were hungry and should move on.
Speaking of food, Ella was our favourite. You’ll definitely need something to restore those energy levels after all that hiking so check out Down Town Rotti Hut on the main (only) street…OMG absolutely amazing. The traditional roti in Sri Lanka is Kottu Roti, which is basically cooked roti chopped up finely with lots more chopped up deliciousness thrown in but we loved the ‘burrito’ style roti, which is rolled and full of chicken and potato curry stuff. Buy an avocado from one of the stalls and you’ve got yourself a top lunch.
MIRISSA, UNAWATUNA AND HIKKADUWA
The best part about two weeks or more in Sri Lanka is that you can explore the hill country, complete with hikes, tea plantation tours and temples and then retire to the beaches to soak up the sun and relax in paradise.
From December to March, it’s dry season on the south-western coast and visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to golden sandy beaches and pristine seas. Spend your days sipping cocktails or fresh coconut water and braving the HUGE waves. The beaches are also popular for surfing, while you can spot turtle’s at Hikkaduwa, go whale and dolphin watching at Mirissa and brush up on your Sri Lankan cooking skills at Unawatuna.
Prices for food, drink and accommodation are a little more, as with any beach resort, but you’ll find some great choices for somewhere to stay located right on the beach as well as endless options for fresh seafood restaurants that you’ll be more than impressed with. The beaches are the perfect way to relax and unwind before heading up toward the city of Colombo.
COLOMBO AND NEGOMBO
Whether you visit Negombo or not will depend on your flight. The airport is close enough to reach from Colombo but staying in Negombo will make the journey a little easier, especially if you have an early flight like we did. In Colombo make sure you walk around as much as possible. saying that, it’s a reasonably sized city but just start wondering and you will come across some spectacular scenes.
In the centre of the city you’ll find the Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Decasthanam Kovil, one of the oldest temples of Colombo City and a real architectural masterpiece from the outside – it gets repainted once a year! Not far from the marine drive and lake is the incredible Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist Temple. Here you can learn so much about Sri Lanka, it’s beauty, history and culture.